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Gratitude Endures Years After Wife’s Hospice Care

In October of 2007, Mark Palmer became a single parent to two young children when his wife, Sue, died following a two-year bout with a rare form of soft tissue cancer.

Sue, who was just 43 years old, had been referred to hospice by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. A team from Hospice of the North Shore (now Care Dimensions) took care of her at home for six weeks. The children – Jack and Ruby – were six and four years old when Sue died.

More than 16 years later, Jack and Ruby are now in their 20s, but Mark never forgot the lessons he learned from his wife’s end-of-life journey and the support he received while helping his children deal with their grief.

A former software business CEO, Mark is now a prominent social media voice about technology, data, and leadership. He writes and speaks about “Where Technology Meets Humanity” (see https://techno-sapien.com/). He continues to appreciate the care and support his family received years ago during and following Sue’s time on hospice. He recently republished “When You Suddenly Become a Mom and a Dad,” in which he shares lessons learned from that experience.

Hospice supports patient and family

Mark recalls driving Sue from their Merrimack Valley home to Dana-Farber for outpatient treatment several times a week. “Those trips became an exhausting grind for Sue, and nearly unbearable because of her pain,” Mark remembers. Previously, Sue had volunteered for a hospice, so when her doctor recommended the service, she knew it meant comfort and support, Mark adds.

As soon as Sue came onto hospice, “the situation shifted from a battle to just ensuring she was comfortable so she could spend quality time with family and friends,” recalls Mark. Hospice of the North Shore ordered and set up a hospital bed for Sue in the Palmers’ living room. Sue’s hospice team visited regularly and included a nurse, aide, and chaplain. An art therapist helped Jack and Ruby express their feelings.

“The nurses took charge of Sue’s care, and the team was so proactive. Everything was taken care of, and it feels like magic that it happened,” Mark remembers. “Our coordinator suggested the art therapy program for the kids. I had never even heard of art therapy, but it proved to be very helpful.

“For example,” Mark continues, “the art therapist showed Jack and Ruby a jar filled with slips of paper that contained pictures and words drawn by kids whose parents were also sick. The kids loved this and scribbled their drawings. Jack drew a sad face, and Ruby drew a happy one. When I asked Ruby what makes her happy, she replied, ‘Now that mom’s home and the TV is set up in the dining room, I get to ride on the hospital bed and watch I Love Lucy with her.’

Lessons in grief

Following Sue’s death, Mark, Jack, and Ruby attended Care Dimensions’ grief support camp, Camp Stepping Stones, during the summers of 2008 and 2009. Mark recalls some important lessons he learned:

“One of the sessions for adults described how a child’s understanding of death changes as they get older: from zero to four, they don’t understand the concept of permanence; from six to the teenage years, they understand that permanence and how it makes them ‘different’ from other kids. During the teenage years, some kids have problems breaking away from a single parent – usually, with two parents, it’s natural to break with one and stay close with the other. The session helped me view death through Jack and Ruby’s eyes, not the eyes of a parent, and to better communicate with them in a way that made sense for their age.”

In his article, “When You Suddenly Become a Mom and a Dad,” Mark discusses this and other lessons that helped him and his children cope with Sue’s death, including:

  • Lean on friends and family to help you get through the first year after the loss.
  • Adopt a love mantra to keep your loved one’s spirit with you and your children.
  • Make yourself happy, and your children will follow your lead.
  • An apocalypse is an uncovering—mostly, it uncovers love.
Reflections and giving back

“In retrospect, it was such a blessing that somebody told me what I needed to know – about the benefits of hospice, and how to help my children through their grief while keeping Sue’s memory alive,” says Mark.

In 2013, Mark remarried and moved his family to Long Island, NY. He and his wife, Casey, raised Jack and Ruby through middle school, high school, and eventually to college. Jack recently graduated from Duke University, and Ruby is a sophomore at Highpoint University in North Carolina. Mark proudly reports that his children have become successful, kind adults.

“Hospice showed us how to integrate Sue into our lives and honor her memory while building a ‘new normal,’” notes Mark. “That idea comes to life in Ruby, who loves to knit like Sue and play volleyball like Casey. Hospice not only helped us cope with cancer, but also grow as a family together.”


Mark Palmer is donating proceeds from his workshop, The Generative AI Growth Mindset to Care Dimensions.

Additional Stories

Years Later, Appreciation Remains for Compassionate Care at Kaplan

For Diana Reintges, it has been nearly a decade since her longtime partner Bobby Seibel was on hospice. While her journey was filled with times of sadness, the support she received still resonates with her today.

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After Hospice Journey, a Time for Reflection and New Beginnings

Twenty years after his wife Cheryl was on hospice, John Sacramone and his family honor her memory while also celebrating new beginnings.

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Spirit of Generosity Lives On

Joyce Pastor was known for her charitable giving over the years. After being cared for by Care Dimensions, her family wanted to continue that spirit of giving in her honor.

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore,  has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.

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